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The Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF), led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has seized P4.5-million worth of illegally-cut premium Philippine wood species in three separate operations in Valenzuela City and Bulacan province last week.

The operations also led to the arrest of 13 individuals and the confiscation of two luxury vans used to transport the illegally sourced logs.

DENR Undersecretary for Protected Areas and Special Concerns Edilberto DC. Leonardo, who is also the Executive Director of the newly-reactivated AILTF, said the confiscation of the undocumented forest products is pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 23, Declaring a Moratorium on the Cutting and Harvesting of Timber in the Natural and Residual Forests, and Section 68 of Presidential Decree 705, as amended by Republic Act 7161 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

"The AILTF has been recalibrated so that it can move forward with greater strength from its creation in 2011 with the issuance of EO 23 so that it can further strengthen the forest protection capability and boost the government campaign against violators of environmental laws especially illegal loggers," Leonardo said.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte directed the revival of the AILTF on Jan. 30, 2021, in the wake of widespread flooding caused by Typhoon Ulysses in November last year.

During the buy-bust operations conducted in Parada, Valenzuela City on Sept. 22, the AILTF has confiscated 33 flitches of undocumented narra, yakal, molave, and mahogany measuring 3,503 board feet and valued at P4 million.

The DENR-National Capital Region (NCR) provided the overall technical support to the operation consisting of identification, assessment, inventory, scaling and hauling of the apprehended forest products.

Six individuals, who were caught in possession of the undocumented forest products, are presently detained at the Valenzuela City Police Station.

The contraband have likewise been turned over to the DENR-NCR which has administrative jurisdiction over the seized forest products as per Department Administrative Order 97-32.

Seven suspects have also been arrested in two separate buy-bust operations on Sept. 15 and 19 in Guiguinto and Norzagaray towns in Bulacan province, respectively.

In Norzagaray, two persons were arrested for illegally selling forest products consisting of 27 flitches of teak wood and seven flitches of kamagong measuring 230 board feet and valued at P35,750.

Meanwhile, the AILTF arrested five individuals in Guiguinto after they were caught in possession of 24 molave flitches valued at P424,850.

The contraband was found hidden inside two luxury vans boarded by the five suspects who were all residents of Ifugao province.

The AILTF is composed of personnel from the Philippine National Police, the DENR, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

It is clustered into AILTF for Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao with its command post at the office of the Undersecretary for Protected Areas and Special Concerns at the DENR Central Office in Quezon City.

Since its first operation in July, Leonardo said the “refurbished” AILTF has so far arrested and filed charges against some 30 violators in the 24 operations they have conducted as of Sept. 22, resulting in the recovery of some P9.5-million worth of contraband which included some P3-million worth of fossilized clamshells (Tridacna gigas), locally called "taklobo."

Of the 24 operations, eight were conducted in Davao del Norte, five each in Surigao del Sur and Northern Samar, two each in Bulacan and Metro Manila, and one each in Kalinga and Palawan. ###